KARACHI: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has started investigations into the irregularities found in the loans amounting to over Rs73 billion taken by nine sugar mills belonging to the Omni Group from the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) as well as other private banks. As many as nine new inquiries have been registered in the FIA’s Karachi commercial banking circle.
The investigation into money laundering allegations continues against the Omni Group Chairperson Anwar Majeed, who is believed to be a close aide to former president Asif Zardari, and his sons. The former president and his sister Faryal Talpur are also included in the list of suspects. The joint investigation team (JIT) constituted by the Supreme Court has begun giving final shape to its investigation.
The JIT had found during its investigation that Majeed’s Omni Group owns as many as nine sugar mills, all of which are located in Sindh. The Omni Group had pledged 4.5 million bags of sugar in March and April 2018 to obtain a total loan of Rs13b from both government and private banks.
The majority of the loan amount was taken from government banks. According to the rules, the Omni group could not sell the pledged 4.5m bags of sugar without advanced permission from the banks. It was also bound to return all the loans to the banks within a week of the sale of the sugar at the specified prices. According to the JIT’s report submitted to SC on October 26, Omni Group owed a total debt of Rs73 billion to different banks. It took Rs23 billion from the National Bank and Rs50 billion from Sindh Bank, Silk Bank and Summit Bank.
The JIT, during the course of its investigation, learnt that the Omni Group had shifted the sugar bags, that were kept as pledges, from the sugar mills to an undisclosed location, or had sold them without informing the bank during the hearing of the money laundering case.
These facts were brought in front of the Supreme Court and on the same day, the FIA took Majeed’s son, Nimr Majeed, into custody from outside the Supreme Court Karachi Registry. Majeed and his elder son have already been arrested on money laundering charges.
According to FIA sources, Nimr has been released after assurances to repay the loans obtained while keeping the missing bags of sugar as mortgage. The FIA in this regard, after registering nine new inquiries in the Karachi commercial banking circle, has started investigations.
On Thursday, when FIA teams raided the sugar mills owned by the Omni Group all over Sindh, it was revealed that there were only 150,000 bags in the mills.
The FIA discovered that there were serious irregularities in the majority of the loans.
The records availed and the investigation so far points to the involvement of the banks senior administration staff and bankers in the irregularities. In light of these allegations, more cases may be registered. FIA officials will submit a report in this regard to the Supreme Court today (Monday).
Published in The Express Tribune, November 5th, 2018.